What’s your problem, and how can I fix it?

That is what it all boils down to in the grand scheme of marketing your business, isn’t it?

What is your solution to someone’s problem?

  • Are you providing a product that eases a pain point in their life?
  • Are you providing a service that removes something from their plate, making their life easier? More productive?
  • Are you saving them money?

Frame your website’s purpose with just that question, “What is your problem, and how can I fix it?” Look at your ideal customers through that lens and you will be able to make the emotional connection that makes the sale.

What does that look like?

  • Making sure your marketing is aimed at your ideal customer’s pain points, make them see you as the solution they have been needing.
  • Make it part of your business motto, maybe your tagline, or your mission statement. “We make your kids LOVE picking up after themselves with our one step program” <—because that would be dreamy, right? SIGN ME UP. That’s a problem I want solved and you nailed it right there, in your tagline. Gold.
  • And 100% make it apparent in all your web content, here’s how:

About page:

Whether you despise talking about yourself, or maybe you love sharing your hobbies, your kids, your adventures a weeeeee bit too much 😉, this section can be overwhelming to some. They get caught up in telling their readers about them.

Wait…what? Isn’t the About section meant to be about you?

Not really. To put it harshly, no one cares about you, haha! They care about about how you can help them. Frame it in that context on you’re well on your way!

Services page:

Lay it out, dumb it down! Don’t assume people know your lingo, know your product, know what you do. The more straight forward you can make your content to digest, the more likely you will engage them enough to take the next step – which equates to business for you.

Don’t be too broad, consider your market, and keep who are you trying to reach at top of mind. How do they absorb content? In what tone?

Give them enough information about your service or product that they feel like they’ve got a good handle what you or your product/service can do for them.

Because remember… That's what people ultimately want...to know what you can do for them. How is your product or service going to benefit them? Click To Tweet

Contact page:

Don’t forget to remind them that you are the solution! Site visitors might be coming only for your contact information so don’t lose that opportunity to tell them how you can help.  Think of your contact page as your connection page – connect them to you!

There’s many ways to communicate how you can help your target audience. Always remember, it’s not about you, it’s about them and go forth and give them the solutions!!

 

So, now you know how businesses are targeting you, here’s my question for you…

What is your problem, and how can I fix it?

 

 

 

Top 10 Small Business Tools to take you into 2020

Eight years of business and I’m going to say I’ve learned a thing or ten. I’ve tested processes, failed, and tried again. So here it is, my attempt at saving you some grief of eventually finding GOOD resources to keep things on track, organized, and less stressy. Here’s your shortcut! A list of things I use regularly and would recommend for any entrepreneur starting out, or even years in and still struggling to find the right tools.

Something you should know: I 100% recommend all these and do not get any kickback for pushing them, EXCEPT for Flywheel and GSuite, I have affiliate links for them. If the others would like to send me dollar bills for mentioning them, I’m here, throw it at me.

Business Tools

These are recommendations that would fit any business, not web design specific at all.

Accounting

Wave

Me, every year end: “Ok, this entering nine million things sucks, I’m going to enter my stuff every week this year! New year, new me.”

Me, every April: “shit.”

Although clearly I’m not a fan of accounting, I’m still in mad love with Wave. Mostly because when I started 8 years ago, I created my invoices in Word which was time consuming and never really left me with any reporting, nothing to look back on, nothing but more paper. Now I have my stuff set up in wave, invoicing is quick and painless. I can see when the client has viewed the invoice, I can send reminders, receipts for payment, all the things. Saves me some bucks at tax time too as I can print off my reports and send to our bookkeeper. Wave can do MUCH more than this, I just haven’t taken advantage of yet – online payments, sync with bank account, estimate creation, and probably more. You can take a picture of your receipt and have it auto-upload as a transaction!

Price: free for basic, all I use at the moment

 

Email

GSuite

I used to have my email through GoDaddy. Didn’t know I wasn’t a fan until I changed to GSuite. SO MUCH BETTER. No overage warnings, I can access easily from anywhere, it’s reliable, and after changing a couple of my habits in it’s layout, way more manageable..

Price: I pay $7/month for basic
Promo codes: G Suite Basic Plan: PALNWQY6F4N7XDH | G Suite Business Plan: E4N44C6NTRFPWGH

Each promotion code provides 20% off the first year on either G Suite Basic plan or G Suite Business plan.

 

Project Management

Evernote. I love you. So much.

Early on, EVERYTHING was in a journal. Literally everything. Every note about a client, every login, every design element, every maintenance update, every thing. I flipped around a lot. And rewrote it more times than I care to admit because I love me a new journal. After reading this post on setting up for my line of work specifically, I went all in. Now I can EASILY access all my info, and keep great records of my history with clients, what level of maintenance they are signed up for, emails I want to keep, web grabs of design elements or colours I’m inspired by, EVERYTHING. Love, love. Can’t say enough and really I still don’t use it to its full potential. You can use it for organizing your personal life too.

Price: free for basic and I totally recommend starting out there.

 

Time Management

This is a big one, with a few recommendations. It may be a sign I sometimes struggle with it.

Toggl

A friend recommended this while doing work for me. She tracked all her time and submitted detailed invoices to me for payment. Awesome for 2 reasons.

  1. I’m getting better at invoicing properly for my time and
  2. It has been significant in keeping me on task! Once that timer is running, I need to stick to one thing. That means less bouncing around to other tasks, or social media.

Price: free for basic (unless you have a team, you only need free!) It looks like their are only paid plans, but there is free, it’s just kind of hidden, snoop around.

 

Strict Workflow

This is an extension I added to my chrome browser. I’m sure you can find for every browser out there, search for “Pomodoro Time Tracking”…unless you are using Internet Explorer, in which case google “get a new browser”.

If you find yourself wasting your time, YOUR LIFE, on social media or random sites that are doing nothing for your brain, install this. Once you’ve hit it once, you’ll be on track for the day. It blocks any urls (sites) you set up so you can’t visit them for 25 minutes. It’s borderline frightening when you first use this and repeatedly try to load twitter or Facebook and it tells you to get back to work – it’s such a habit that even though you’ve just set the timer, you still click to check. Gross. Anyway, try this. Report back. Don’t worry, after the 25 minutes, the tomato turns green and you get 5 minutes to piss around on any site you want. Then it’ll ring at you and you’re back to 25 minutes work and blocked elsewhere. And repeat, although you will likely just find you are in the groove of work now and don’t need it.

Price: free

 

1Password

Holy jeez. I’m not sure how I ever went without this. Thank you to a twitter peep who introduced me to this one! I have SO SO MANY passwords and logins it would make your head spin. I used to keep them all in a journal and flip to the page EVERY SINGLE TIME. Now, 1Password saves me so much time it’s crazy. And secure. I have these passwords now: 41jjT3!3*oG28llL30)O2@58…you get the idea. I pay yearly, it’s under $60 and well worth it.

I had a few issues setting it up, but once it’s done, it’s done. And the saving of your sanity begins.

Price: varies, they have personal, family, team, and business options

 

Design Hack

Canva

I recommend this ALL THE TIME. Need a social media share image, maybe with some text overlay, or something a little more creative than you can pull off? Canva is your answer. So many templates to choose from and if you get the paid version, your options open up. You can resize your same design for different social media channels, set up your brand’s fonts and colours, all the things. The more time you spend in there, the more comfortable you will get and you’ll be banging out posts that look nice from here until eternity…or until the next thing comes along 😉

Price: free for basic

 

Website Business Tools

What I use and love.

Hosting

Flywheel

THE BOMB. I’ve progressed over the years. GoDaddy in my early years of web design, to WP Engine which was amazing WordPress specific hosting but the cost got too outrageous for me, to FlyWheel! I have my very own person there always looking out for me and giving me suggestions on ways to do things differently, better, save money, etc. Initially I saw WP Engine as a superior hosting company, but FlyWheel has advanced significantly since I signed up a few years ago. Staging environments, SSL certificates, daily backups, all the features. There is not much lacking now, they add features on the regular to make my life managing 50+ sites easier. I really enjoy their newsletter too – Layout – one of the few I won’t unsubscribe from on Black Friday. (side note: Flywheel has actually joined forces with WPEngine, but my prices didn’t change, yay!)

Price: varies, single site $23USD/month

 

Domains

GoDaddy

You know I think this is just a comfort thing for me. I started with GoDaddy, find their interface easy for DNS/domain settings and have just stuck with them for my domains. Having said that – DON’T LET YOUR WEB DESIGNER PUT YOUR DOMAIN UNDER THEIR ACCOUNT – get your own!! Your domain should always be under your business’s account. Otherwise it WILL be a pain in the ass down the road, I can pretty much guarantee that.

Price: varies depending on domain and if you want to add privacy. Add privacy 🙂

 

Design Hack

WhatFont

You ever see a font and think I LOVE THAT SO MUCH but you don’t want to spend 10 years trying to figure it out? This chrome browser extension gives you the goods. Install. Click on it and hover over the text. Boom. I often see posters, or signage or things when I’m out that I wish I knew the fonts, the number of pictures on my phone of inspiration is out of control, at least this gives me some satisfaction when I see something online that catches my eye.

Price: free

 

Event Management

Two extra recommendations for running events. A couple of randoms from my old life of planning social media breakfasts…here’s what made planning them a breeze! Like not a light breeze, but a manageable breeze 😉

Team Communication

Slack

Communication desktop and smartphone app for a team. SO IDEAL. You can start different channels for different topics, send private messages to a single or side group of team members, video chat (I have yet to find a better video chat thing I like) everything. Here’s the hard truth people: email chains SUCK AND NO ONE LIKES GETTING ROPED INTO ONE. Get Slack and never do that again. With this recommendation, keep in mind that you need all team members on board with participating on this or you aren’t getting anywhere using it.

Price: free for basic, all I’ve used

 

Scheduling

Trello

I’ve had recommendations for using Trello for website design. Not a fan. It’s just not productive for me. However, using it to plan out an event is a huge yes. I used it to plan out the year of sponsors, speakers, locations, breakfasts, it really saved my life. It’s free, user friendly, and you can have a team on it so everyone is in the loop and can document in one place. Simple to use.

Price: free for basic, all you need in my opinion

 

By the time I finished this, I thought of other things I use but top 10 is going to have to cover it for now. Good luck! And if you try any of these, let me know your thoughts.

Here’s to a prosperous, well organized, and less stressy 2020!

 

The Power of Communities

In spring of 2015, I was asked to keynote the AGORA Conference at Red Deer College. Now that Tad Hargrave of Marketing for Hippies, the inspiration behind my talk is coming to Red Deer on Thursday, I’ve finally been inspired to put it into a blog post. Here it is…


When I was first asked to speak here I was mad…then excited…then full of insecurities. I mean I’m not an expert in anything really, what the hell can I share? Ya, I’m an entrepreneur, I’m passionate about business, marketing, social media and volunteering, but I’m not leader in any of those mediums.

So I sat down and started writing with the intention that I’m going to inspire you guys to walk out of here and change all the things. To be leaders. To make an impact on the world.

You’re off the hook 🙂

My goal today is much simpler and truer to who I am, and it’s been the foundation of every single thing I’ve accomplished and am proud of in my adult life.

My goal is for you to walk out of here I don’t know…maybe inspired isn’t the right word, but compelled to find your communities and get involved. In something. Anything. And in any capacity.

The Power of Communities.

What’s the first thing that pops into your head when I say communities?

When I asked on Twitter I got #12SeasonsandaMovie. I also got similar responses – groups with a common interest, support network, and my favourite:

“Community, to me, is a by-product of the decision to be involved, to participate, to reach out to others, it’s the inevitable result.”

My first thought that comes to mind when I say communities, is my hometown. I grew up in Munson…which is a tiny dot on the map. A small village between Drumheller and Morrin. Our little farming community ate, slept, breathed community. We played sports together, went to school together, had concerts, potlucks and even a lot of our parents grew up together. Everybody knew Everybody. Which is awesome right? Until you’re a teenager, then not so awesome.

I still feel deeply rooted in that community, it’s my base, my hometown…that I never want to go back to, but take comfort in knowing it’s still there. That community is invested in me too. Have a baby, get married (or vice versa in my case) they’ll throw you a shower and celebrate. And they’re there for the shit parts too – the deaths, the hardships, the losses – they’re invested in you and genuinely want to witness your life play out. I think because that sense of community has been so instilled in me my whole life, I always search out communities to be a part of in any capacity.

Where do you find your people? Your communities?

Let’s start with online.

Online Communities

Favourites – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn groups, maybe you find your people on Tinder.

Man I LOVE the social media. My husband doesn’t think 40K tweets is worthy of much, but I’m here to tell you it IS worthy of something…it gave me connections, a community to build my business.

How many here are on twitter? DO YOU LOVE IT? DO YOU FOLLOW ME? @BrendaSarg … go tweet me.

You can find ANYTHING on twitter. Marketing experts, Big Brands, educators, moms, start-ups, seniors, even Grumpy Cat is on twitter. Even if starting a business isn’t in your future plans, it still has its benefits. Connections. In various avenues that you may not even have thought of, or may not even be of value to you…yet. Ya, there is a ton of bullshit to sift through, but there is a ton of opportunity to learn…about your city, town, your politicians, your non-profits and even what events are happening  – locally and globally. Twitter is my google, I’ve gotten to trust some of my community enough that if they recommend a business or service to me, I trust it’s a good recommendation.

Opportunity. I can’t say it enough…all communities bring opportunity. Knowledge, growth, support…and tons more.

Shortly after I started twitter I was considering a career change, I had tweeted back and forth with a guy who owned his own web design company. I tweeted him one day (never met in real life) and asked him if I could meet with him and pick his brain. Once you feel part of a community…you open the opportunity for asks.

I was working at a civil engineering firm and had offered to do a site for a gym owner…NO CLUE what I was getting in to, zero experience, no skills. And I did it. Then I did another one for a few bucks.

Two websites. Two.

My 3 year old was in daycare at the time and I was just really needing to get him out of there. I came home one Friday, stood in front of my husband’s moving lawn tractor and shouted “I WANT TO QUIT MY JOB AND DESIGN WEBSITES”.

Well, he didn’t run me over and for some crazy reason agreed that I should pack in my 10 and a half year, well paying career and try to be a web designer.

Because you know…2 websites.

I took to twitter. Set up a business twitter account so I could continue being a smartass on my personal one and reel in the customers on the other.

I lasted one week I think. Couldn’t do it. I couldn’t be dry and super professional or I’d be building a false community, a community of people I probably wasn’t even going to enjoy because they were attracted to fake always-super-sweet-and-positive-don’t-disagree-with-anyone me.

Change of plans. I decided at that moment that I’m my brand. I wasn’t confident enough to really pimp my services anyway so I just connected with people AS ME. Engaged. Talked about stuff I was interested in. There is ALWAYS someone on Twitter that has thought your same thought, has been through what you have, or who can offer valuable advice. In time…your community builds. Your support system grows. You have that base…people invested in you who want to see you succeed and will be ambassadors for your business. Sales people that you don’t have to put on payroll – awesome!

I always say twitter built my business. And it did. It taught me a ton, helped me figure out and target my demographic, to meet local industry leaders, and build mutually beneficial relationships with them, and put resources in front of me I never knew existed.

That community built Unlimited BS. By referring me, investing in me with their businesses themselves, and maybe they got something out if it too…being a part of a new business making it. That feels good to be involved in. My online community supported me.

Can’t bring yourself to jump in and talk to perfect strangers online? Ya…it’s weird. I get that.

How about build your own community? You know what you like, what gets you jacked up. Volunteer somewhere. There are a million opportunities to volunteer. Seriously…ridiculous amount of opportunities. Check out Volunteer Central. Or just think of what you like doing, and do it with, or for, someone else. Boom.

I guarantee there are others out there that want to be part of whatever that is. GUARANTEE! And the great thing about volunteering…you’re only going to do it if it’s something you believe in. And others will do it with the same motive.

Why is that awesome? You will be making connections with people that are in line with your values. You never know what kind of opportunity that will bring. In your personal life, your career, your life.

When Ronald McDonald House opened in Red Deer in 2012 my girlfriend asked if I wanted to help her put on a dinner there. They have dinner groups that purchase supper for the families staying there, cook them supper and clean up after. To give them a break in their stress-filled days. She had stayed at another RMH when her daughter has having surgery and said it took a load off. She could focus on her daughter and not providing dinner for the rest of her young family.

So we put it up on Facebook to see if we could get 6 other people interested. HOLY! Ya..I think we had around 40 people wanting to help.

That community of cooks to prepare meals, sponsors to pay for dinner made itself. Before the first dinner, we had decided to form a facebook group named – Real Housewives of Red Deer, a place for people to sign up to join us to cook every time we had a sponsor step up with the money. Three years later, we had over 200 members, and most I’ve never met. It’s individuals who want to be involved, but either are new to Red Deer, don’t have the funds to put on one of their own, or just aren’t able to round up 7 other people to cook with them.

These strangers…these people I’ve never met, built our community. Without people signing up meal after meal, or sponsors offering to send money to purchase a dinner, RHRD would not exist. Us Real Housewives of Red Deer would be sitting at home watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills instead of offering up a reprieve to hurting families and making a difference.

A community of volunteers.

Networking Communities

Like it or not, in the business world, you’ve got to embrace networking. Ugh. Networking to me has always meant suits blowing smoke up one another’s asses while looking at their phones.

But you have to do it. You have to make connections to move your business forward.

Is anyone familiar with Social Media Breakfast Red Deer?

So what we do is we get together for 2 hours once a month, have a speaker, and it’s attended by local business owners, marketing and communications managers, city employees, and everything in between. Generally people wanting to hear what works and what doesn’t for others in their city and industry. Sharing of ideas. And not just small business either, bigger corporations and non-profits also are involved. A community doesn’t have to be the same demographic… all you need is one common interest or goal.

After its second meeting, I was asked if I’d like to join the Steering Committee. I did…super hesitant, but felt like I needed to get involved to get more connections…and get my name out. I joined and then they all quit…one by one. And ya, I’m delusional enough to believe it had nothing to do with me 🙂 We went through a number of challenges, committee members, and I nearly shut it down twice because it was just too much. I wanted this community of people, but didn’t feel like I was giving them the value I should have been. FINALLY we got the right group. There are 3 of us now and we just work [5 now!]. We’re inspired, we’re motivated, we’re figuring out who’s talents lie where and how to trust those talents.

We just held our 24th event on Thursday and it was awesome. [40th now!]

And our community is making it blow up.

Me by myself? I would have packed it in, without a doubt. Yes, we were still getting the people to the events, but the value was slipping. Thankfully…that group of people had faith in us and wanted this to work…now, we’ve got this. We’ll supply value again. We’re invested in them, and they are invested in us. I think that is what makes a community a community. Being invested.

So I’m going to wrap up with this post I came across on the Marketing for Hippies blog.

_______________

He prefaces the story talking about the woman born over 100 years ago. She was a teacher, a wife and mom to 3. At that time, female teachers were not allowed to work while they were married, so she had to give up her job. She was heavily involved in the church and instilled deep levels of self-respect in her 3 children.

Tragically, the church that held and heard the voices of her father, husband, and son – who all served as pastors there – also echoed the sudden, loud, sickening sound of the gunshot that took her life inside its walls six years after her son was murdered for speaking not only his mind, but the minds of so many others.

He then goes into how there is so much pressure to change the world, that everywhere we turn there are messages, speakers, pinterest posts with inspirational quotes on some majestic backdrop telling us we are meant for bigger. BE BIGGER. Impact the world. And ya, I see that all the time. Spend 2 minutes on Pinterest or Facebook and you’re inundated with it.

That you need to be a hero to affect social change.

Bullshit. You need to be a part of things…communities, not a part from.

We’re told, constantly, that one person can make a difference.

Implied in this story is that Martin Luther King Jr. was the spokesperson and only person who really mattered in the civil rights  movement. That Gandhi was the the movement for India’s independence. That Nelson Mandela was the leader of the anti-apartheid movement, etc.

But that’s historically inaccurate. There were MILLIONS of people involved in those movements without whom all those mentioned above would have been lone and lonely voices.

One person can’t do much, really.

That’s what communities are for. That’s what movements are for. And any of the big names you could mention of positive change makers (and there are, thankfully, many) were outgrowths of a movement, not the leaders of it. They served the movement, not the other way around.

So who was that woman I talked about?

Well, she was born Alberta Christine Williams. But she died Alberta Christine Williams King.

Her husband was Martin Luther King.

Her son was Martin Luther King Jr.

Her name is not well known and yet, through her son (and in many, many other ways we may never know), she blessed this world.

Without Alberta, there would have been no Martin Luther King Jr.

The lesson here is…

Who’s to say what might or might not happen because you and seemingly small, mundane or common things that you do? With a community behind you, your voice matters.

[you can read the full blog post here: “Why Stop Playing Small is Bullshit]

_______________

So no, I’m not a leader, nor do I feel any pressure to be one. The goal isn’t to be bigger than, or a part from…the goal  is to be a part of.

Start building communities. It’s the premise for all movements, all successes, and it opens you up to a world of opportunities.

 

Tad Hargrave is holding a Workshop – Marketing for Hippies 101 – in Red Deer at the Scott Block Theatre this Thursday, July 21st from 10am – 5pm. It’s an awesome opportunity to learn from a skilled, successful, community-minded marketer who I clearly admire A LOT. You can register here:

 

Checking out your competition

Are you giving your competitors your time and attention?

You should be.

I think it’s wise to know and understand what they offer. Not so you can copy it…or even surpass it. But so you can differentiate what sets YOU apart. How are YOU different? The difference doesn’t have to be a reinvention of the wheel, it can be as simple as…I do this process this way and it’s rocking my clients’ socks.

There’s also opportunity to learn. What do you admire about how they do it? Does it inspire you? Push you to up your game? These are all good things.

Side note…I hate the word competitors because I visualize pissy behaviour which rarely, if ever, is the case. At least in my industry. Everyone is just out there busting their butts to be their best at what they do and deliver a service or product that jacks them up.

My point is do it. Give them time and attention.

As much as networking with people in your community and future client pool benefits you, networking with those in your industry also has great value.

Just don’t let them in your heart. I think at some point that happens to all of us. You push the comparison in there when you’re feeling self-doubt or insecure and then you start weighing how you measure up…or don’t.

Stop that shit.

It’s destructive and can be paralyzing. Give it a few minutes if you have to and then MOVE ON.

Remind yourself, every damn day if you have to, what YOU offer. How YOU are different. Click To Tweet And most importantly, how YOU make your Clients feel. I guarantee every small business owner and entrepreneur is doing something unique that sets them apart.

Took me a while to get there, if I had questions, I asked a stranger online. Why? Intimidated. Scared to ask for help…even from my mentor sometimes. Being the new old lady on the block made me stay in my bubble for quite some time. Now I’m confident that I’m good at what I do for my Clients. We partner well. And getting to know others in my industry has provided me with opportunity for growth, some referrals, and some really sweet connections and resources.

You can’t beat that.

So give competitors your time and attention. It’s worth it.

 

Hey Partner

I get that it’s hard to trust someone with  something as close to your heart as your business is.

Especially when you feel so grey as to how to direct them so they can possibly understand your message…your brand.

You’re not creative.
You have no idea what your website should look like.
All you really know is how you feel about what you do, what you offer, what you’ve got going on.

FRICKIN AWESOME!

I don’t see all those points as a strike against creating a site that sells you and that represents YOU. At all. So long as you know what your business looks like, how you want your potential clients to feel about it…that’s what we need.

Because that’s the heart and I so dig that. All I need is for you to tell me – NO SHAME – what you’d love your business to be. The why you started. It may not be there yet, that doesn’t matter. Build it and they will come? Ya, that. Click To Tweet

Don’t be intimated that you don’t have a clue about web design. You don’t have to. Just like I don’t need to be able to create your product or service. That’s what this whole deal is about.

Consider me a partner. In a total non-John-Wayne-kind-of-way.

I promise we’ll get there. I’ll ask you a million questions, some may make you uncomfortable, but we’ll get there.

wait…uncomfortable??! Forget it, I’m out!

Hold up. Uncomfortable almost always means growth and getting to where you want to be, so let's embrace it. Click To Tweet All I mean is that I’m going to ask you to really think about why you want a website. Things like this…

How do you want your potential client/customer to feel?

excited?

calm?

educated?

motivated?

What voice are you using?

professional?

personable?

funny?

dry as shit?  (<—we’re going to need to talk about that one)

Ok…so I’ll cut the awkward feel-y BS…just know that I get it. Starting is hard. Reaching out for help in your solo venture is hard.

I KNOW IT. 

But what have you got to lose, let’s do this partner 🙂